XI. Our Responsibility (Romans 9:30–10:21)

9:30-33 Paul turns a corner as he begins to examine the other side of the equation—our responsibility. From one perspective, it was God’s sovereign will to extend grace to the Gentiles. From another perspective, though, the Gentiles have obtained righteousness because they pursued it the right way, by faith (9:30). Israel, on the other hand, failed to achieve the law of righteousness (9:31) because they did not pursue it by faith (9:32). As long as anyone pursues salvation by works, as Israel did, the grace of Jesus will act like a stumbling stone (9:32). Jesus is either the stone we trip over in our self-righteousness, or he’s the rock we build our lives upon.

The concern of this passage is not primarily establishing the conditions for justification but establishing the conditions for deliverance from temporal wrath (see 1:18, 24, 26, 28) and the consequences of sin (i.e., salvation) and for divine help that is available to all who are justified through faith in Christ. When a person believes, he receives justification. But in order to receive deliverance from temporal wrath, a believer must confess, or publicly acknowledge, the lordship of Jesus Christ and call on him for divine assistance. This is why “confess” and “believe” are flipped in 10:9-10. When a person believes, he receives God’s righteousness (i.e., he is born again). But when he publicly acknowledges identification with Christ, he receives temporal divine intervention (i.e., deliverance; see Matt 10:32-33).

10:11-13 The result of this belief, for both Jew and Greek (10:12), is that they will not be put to shame (10:11). We often think of coming to Jesus as a chance for our sins to be wiped away. And Jesus certainly does that. But he also removes our shame, delivering us in our everyday circumstances. If we call on Jesus, though the consequences may be difficult, we will never regret it. Calling on the name of the Lord for deliverance is a practice and provision for believers only (see Acts 7:59; 1 Cor 1:2; 1 Pet 1:17).

10:14-15 Before a person can call on Jesus for deliverance from temporal wrath and the consequences of sin, he or she must first believe through the hearing of the gospel. Thus, the person is already a believer when calling for divine intervention.

10:16-17 Many people, of course, don’t believe even though they’ve been told about Jesus. In fact, from Isaiah’s time down to Paul’s, the normal response to the Word of the Lord is rejection. So Paul says that not all obeyed the gospel. And Isaiah goes so far as to say, Lord, who has believed our message? (10:16). The faithful will always be in the minority.

10:18 The word of God has gone out to every individual, whether they know Jesus’s name or not. The voice of God, as Paul quotes from the Psalms, has gone out to . . . the ends of the world. We call that general revelation, the idea that in the beauty and majesty of nature, people are confronted with the reality and power of God. The problem, as Paul brought up in the first chapter of Romans, is that they reject and suppress this knowledge of God. Thus, special revelation is necessary for people to be reconciled to God.

10:19-20 Paul returns to the idea of Gentile salvation here to remind his Jewish readers of God’s purpose: by extending grace to the Gentiles, who were not looking for or asking for him (10:20), God’s goal was to make Israel jealous of those who are not a nation (10:19).

10:21 Why would God want his people to be jealous? Not to mistreat them or to punish them, but to provoke them and drive them back to him. He often does the same with us. In our pain, God is not trying to pay us back as much as to bring us back. So what he says to Israel he says to us: All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and defiant people. Nobody is more heartbroken by your disobedience than God. And nobody but God will show you more patience as you return to him.

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